Does obesity help to cause degenerative disease?

What are the main causes of obesity in the world? Can we change it?

With store shelves bursting with low-fat foods, diet pills and shakes, and hundreds of books on losing weight, the epidemic of obesity in the Western world seems a little uncanny.

In the majority of European nations, obesity rates have catapulted to nearly 40%, and in the United States an average of 60% of the population is considered overweight or obese. These are developed nations, and the abundance of food combined with more sedentary lifestyles certainly seems a likely culprit.

The majority of us take our weight very seriously, harboring an underlying shame for those "extra pounds". It's important to remember that being overweight (with a body mass index of between 25.5 and 30) and being obese (with a BMI of over 30) are two separate entities.

However, regardless of whether you're considered overweight or obese, paring your body mass index down to under 25.5 is the best way of achieving optimal health.

That being said, obesity is a chronic disease that's obviously reaching epidemic proportions all over the Western world. Most frighteningly, the rise in childhood obesity is off the charts in recent years. But a sedentary lifestyle and fried foods aren't the only guilty parties in this epidemic. Let's take a look at some additional causative factors.

Obesity and the New Diet

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For years we were told that, regardless of what we ate, if we burned off more calories than we consumed during the day, we would lose weight. It seemed to be an easy calculation to do. Unfortunately, we're now learning that this isn't the case.

With food manufacturers offering a plethora of low-fat, low-carb, low-cal foods, you'd think we'd have whipped this obesity problem into shape by now. However, nearly all prepackaged foods have one little caveat - they lack nutritional value and they're packaged with preservatives, chemicals, and additives.

We're trading ease of preparation with proper nutrition. And the additives to our foods aren't doing us any favors at all. Not only are these foods full of empty calories and sorely lacking in nutrition, but they're full of additives that, essentially, are free radicals. This leads to more oxidative stress in the body, and when you couple that with obesity, you begin seeing the diseases that seem to be currently running rampant.

Obesity and Cancer

Obesity is not a direct cause of cancer. However, as we age, the fat stores in our body - the little cells that sit for so long - begin to change and go rancid. These cells begin searching for other cells to collect with, which begins a mutation process that can lead to cancer.

When a person has an overabundance of free radicals roaming throughout the body, this heightens the probability for developing cancerous conditions.

When you take into consideration that obesity most likely includes a diet full of free radicals, it adds up to a very dangerous situation. In fact, obesity increases the risk of developing breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, kidney cancer, and prostate cancer by between 25-30%.

But getting obesity under control in order to avoid cancer may not be as simple as exercising and avoiding high-fat foods. As a matter of fact, cases of obesity that occur after the age of 25 may involve something else entirely.

Obesity and Diabetes

In many ways, physicians may be putting the cart before the horse when they talk to their diabetic patients about losing weight. In fact, the early stages of diabetes may actually be the cause of obesity in many people.

Our diets in the Western world are full of carbohydrates. Over the years, if we're not properly balancing our nutrition and we're consistently introducing carbohydrates into our systems, our bodies begin to become insulin resistant. This early stage of insulin resistance is often referred to as Syndrome X.

One of the most common symptoms of Syndrome X is unexplained weight gain, especially around the center of the body. The weight gain isn't as much in relation to the food we eat (because many people notice this weight gain without ever changing their diet), but it's in relation to the body becoming resistant to its own insulin after eating carbohydrates for lengthy amounts of time.

If a person develops Syndrome X, and thus becomes obese, he or she will most likely to go on to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes if the situation remains unchanged. And the combination of diabetes and obesity is quite dangerous. Studies have shown that people who suffer from both of these conditions are much more likely to develop heart disease, strokes, and certain types of cancer. So what can be done to fix the problem, whether you're obese or diabetic, or both?

Lifestyle Changes to Combat Obesity

It's clear that one of the most important things you can do, whether or not you're obese, is to start a modest exercise program. Exercise promotes vitality, increases circulation, and most often results in weight loss. The best thing about exercise is that it doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you do it. Find a program that fits with your lifestyle, brings you joy, and keeps you motivated, and stick with it.

Diet, of course, is another factor in combatting obesity. Start making food choices that are aligned with health - opting for fresh vegetables and fruits, preservative-free foods and lean meats, and whole grains when at all possible. The best part about turning your back on prepackaged foods is that you'll most likely automatically be adopting a low-glycemic diet.

Low-glycemic foods, such as most vegetables, legumes, fish, and lean meats, will help your body become sensitive to its own insulin. While the controversy still reigns over whether or not carbs are a necessity, it's important that when you eat foods like bread and rice, you try to stick with whole grains and avoid refined foods if at all possible.

In addition to these changes, you should begin an intensive supplementation program as soon as possible with high quality supplements. Because of crop growing practices, the integrity of our food supply - natural or not - has dwindled significantly. This means that we can't depend on our foods to give us all the nutrition we need any longer. In order to properly flush bad free radicals out of the body, we need to take quality nutritional supplements in the form of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

All of these ideas are a great start to losing weight and overcoming your own obesity, but it's important to remember that the goal is to lose weight slowly. Rapid weight loss may actually cause more harm than good, and nearly always leads to weighty rebound.

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